On Solving Homelessness

Yesterday (8 August) I spoke to a studio group looking at the population of the homeless to construct a project. Below is a list of links and references – aspects I touched upon in my talk.

Homefulness

I choose to list three ‘place-making’ initiatives. These are not programs (funding+Project+Goal-Delivery) – but are best viewed as long lasting sites for a special kind of people.

Oakland, California: A sweat equity, permanent co-housing, education, arts, micro-business and social change project for landless/houseless and formerly houseless families and individuals. (http://www.poormagazine.org/homefulness)

As an act of resistance to the hierarchal and unjust distribution of wealth and resources locally and globally, POOR Magazine is formerly calling the fundraising effort for HOMEFULNESS, an Equity Campaign, instead of a Capital Campaign, as through equity sharing, not tied to financial resources, we will be creating permanent and lasting solutions to houselessness for families in poverty who have been displaced, evicted, gentrified and destabilized out of their indigenous lands and communities.

Washington DC: I’m actually not sure that it is a word yet, but what a great idea! “Homefulness” instead of “homelessness.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeanmichel-giraud/homefulness-not-homelessness_b_1537688.html)

Twenty-one years into it, Friendship Place is leading with solutions that are simple and applied, and are developed by listening to our program participants.

Victoria B>C rtf-at-greenfields-greenhouse(Canada): Street life can reduce an individual to a reality of perceived meaninglessness and purposelessness. Beyond attending to his/her immediate needs, there are little or no positive goals and aspirations. Woodwynn farm life unyieldingly commands meaning and purpose. Every contribution, every day, from every individual matters to the operations of the farm community. And it quickly becomes obvious to the individual that they matter and are valued.  New participants are given the mantra, “How can I help?” Farm chores must be done. Laundry and dishes must be done. (https://www.woodwynnfarms.org/our-woodwynn-program/)

The Homeless Solved their Problem

I proposed the notion that by ‘occupying’ the cities of Australia the Homeless has shown us a ground up solution – the tent city!

He agreed at the February 7 meeting to consider a drop-in centre, safe spaces, and lockers for the homeless. A new by-law, which will extend the definition of “camping” and ban people from leaving items unattended in public places, was approved 5-4 and supported by all Team Doyle members. (http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/protesters-abuse-neighbours-litter-street-outside-lord-mayors-house/news-story/eda13b1cc115180cd16d3f00426d0651)

On Tuesday afternoon, at least 40 tents, a thriving kitchen and library remained in place on the iconic pedestrianised street just a stone’s throw from the NSW Parliament. (http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/leaders/sydney-tent-city-leader-says-forcibly-breaking-up-camp-could-lead-to-homeless-people-to-be-attacked-raped/news-story/d7626ccd61dad9a45a4912946f498da0)

Human Waste

The Homeless are “Human Waste”. I amped this up yesterday by speaking of the “rich” who viscerally dislike the dirty, smelly and mis-shapen (ugly) in human kind. I cited Clive Hamilton (His book Affluenza) to raise the issue of there being one right, correct and ‘natural’ way to be in Australia: which to work, make money and become wealthy. Those that are not seen to ‘contribute to society’ and the phrase ‘dole bludgers’ has been part of public discourse (https://newmatilda.com/2016/11/20/how-malcolm-turnbull-keeps-the-dole-bludger-boogeyman-alive/).

It is important to heed this provocation – for the assumptions of ‘the right way’ equally define ‘transgressions’ such as not working, not paying taxes and doing their fair share. The nuances of this construct are carefully teased out by Bauman. “I first read Zygmunt Bauman at university”. (https://theguiridispatches.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/reading-list-wasted-lives-by-zygmunt-bauman/)

The production of ‘human waste’ – or more precisely, wasted lives, the ‘superfluous’ populations of migrants, refugees and other outcasts – is an inevitable outcome of modernization. It is an unavoidable side-effect of economic progress and the quest for order which is characteristic of modernity. (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46818.Wasted_Lives)

Book: Wasted Lives: Modernity and Its Outcasts by Zygmunt Bauman

NOTE: For the Three of you who also did Nomadic Affordances – how is this studio different from that one? ( http://prezi.com/ap13iypar5v_/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share)

Portugal Policy on Drugs

After-care and social re-integration of drug users in Portugal is organised through three major programmes targeting different regions in Portugal (Programa Vida Emprego, Programa Quadro Reinserir and the PIDDAC incentives for re-integration). All three programmes finance different initiatives and projects supporting drug users through training opportunities, employment support, and/or housing. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug_policy_of_Portugal)

 

Outdoor Piece by Tehching Hsieh

In 1981, Taiwanese endurance artist Tehching Hsieh ventured out into the streets of New York City and proceeded to live outdoors for a full year, ending the piece (aptly titled Outdoor Piece) in 1982. In this yearlong derive of sorts, Hsieh essentially takes on the identity of a homeless individual—although “houseless” would be a more apt description of his type of purposeful displacement—calling into question tensions between public and private spaces and their impact on our everyday lives, as well as the way in which public spaces are navigated on a daily basis. (https://dca.ue.ucsc.edu/dca/winners/2016/796).

Way Forward?

Its possible the underlying paternalism of help – such as charity focussed upon less privileged is a valid tithe for the well meaning. Doing something for the homeless is also a a way to realize meaning for many. Its possibly a very useful impulse that keeps charities doing soup kitchens. However its possible something is changing – the very nature and form of homelessness is transforming before our eyes. I offer up Hsieh as a provocation to still the mind of the sanctimonious designer – your “lets clean if up” and “solve this once and for all” efforts are not needed.

Its better to imagine homelessness as a necessary condition of modern society. We need it. We need to care for it. It is a public performance of our humanity. It is a test put there to force us to confront our humanity.

The homeless are victims of violence. Often inflicting pain on the unfortunate is a sport. This needs attention!

What would constitute a disruption – such as a new way of thinking about this issue?

Would handing over the solution seeking to the population of homeless – such as the contemporary assertiveness of the homeless and their occupation of the cities of Australia – be pointing a way to the solution?

What would an app for the homeless look like? This of course needed to be said.

Part 2: On Solving Homelessness

While the last post was a deep dive into texts and the condition – this post is a look at Design Projects that have dealt with Homelessness. The understanding of of the condition is necessarily opportunistic – to realize a project. So the meaning accords with ‘the absence of home’ – and the person in this narrative is an idealized individual – you will find that there is not much depth in the construction of persona. Therefore for the current engagement and focus upon the ‘youth’ these projects are not very helpful. The LEARNING for design students here is in the clarity with which you can see that ‘normal design’ projects differ from social impact design projects.

For example the normal in design is focussed upon consumption and thus upon treating the people impacted by the design as this heterogeneous melange that can still be targeted with specific solutions. And this works in tech or materially embodied constructions – i.e. anyone can stand underneath a shelter and be protected from the rain.

More importantly it will be unusual to expect a design project that focusses upon providing a digital health record for this category of people.

I am therefore posting some projects – as the problem that design has in its inability to ‘disrupt’ mainstream ways of thinking.

How Might We Design Out Homelessness?

Raffaele identified two major factors affecting homelessness–not enough accommodation and not enough capital to support services to the multi-disadvantaged. He believes systems design is the best way to address these issues and looked to nature through biomimicry to come up with potential solutions.

http://designonline.org.au/how-might-we-design-out-homelessness/

Defensive architecture: designing the homeless out of cities

On any one night in London, there around 700 people sleeping in the city’s streets. Rough sleeping is a risky decision – and almost always the choice of the most desperate. Yet the response of the state – and our society – is surprisingly hostile.
Rough sleeping – and homelessness more generally – are on the rise. But austerity measures have made things worse, by cutting funds to vital support services. On top of this, rough sleepers have good reason to fear abusive behaviour from passers-by. Shockingly, this has even included physical attacks, resulting in documented deaths.

http://theconversation.com/defensive-architecture-designing-the-homeless-out-of-cities-52399

Design Resources for Homelessness

Design Resources for Homelessness is a knowledge resource that shares information about practical research, best practices and related content on the design of environments for persons that are homeless. It addresses emergency, transitional and permanent supportive housing types, housing first projects, and also day centers, clinics, and service outreach facilities. It is a non-profit initiative funded by donations and grants. Its information is provided without charge.

http://designresourcesforhomelessness.org/

Making Space for the Homeless

On a recent afternoon, at Parsons School of Design, on Thirteenth Street, the artist and interior designer Kevin Walz greeted a handful of guests in a large, long studio space that had high, old-fashioned embossed-metal ceilings and work spaces crowded with scraps and tools and models. He wore a shirt sewn to look like two layered button-up shirts, each with a different stripe, and had a punkish smile and a knot of gray hair perched above the closely shaved sides of his broad head. He offered people bottled water as they entered—Evian and Fiji—from a green plastic bodega bag.

Perhaps it’s fanciful to be discussing beautiful design in the face of horror stories about the city’s neglected, dilapidated shelters. Or perhaps the project of reconceptualizing what it means to house the homeless goes hand in hand with the project of finding sustainable approaches to homelessness. (In an area where the best practices seem wholly inadequate to the problem at hand, and where departures from orthodoxy—such as a Utah experiment that simply gave homeless people houses—can be notably fruitful, the idea of radical reconceptualization is particularly attractive.) But the ability to conceive of and implement beautiful design with scarce resources is a great test of skill and talent, and it’s worth wondering whether top-tier designers would even be interested in these tight-budget contracts. (“My passion still goes to high-end residential spaces,” which allow for extensive customization, one student said.) But from the working designer’s point of view, designing for a low-income demographic might offer another kind of freedom. Walz said that he’s observed a growing discontent among interior designers with some of the changes that economic trends have wrought on their profession. “Everybody has sort of had it with the sense of entitlement in certain parts of the population,” he said. “But nobody wants to talk about it—you don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you.”

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/making-space-for-the-homeless

Homeless­ness Is Bad Design

Homelessness is what happens when people fall through the cracks of different systems, so if we’re to put an end to it, we need to create integrated teams—the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the mayor’s office, the nonprofits, the housing authority. It’s only when you get everyone together in the same room that you can construct a well-performing housing placement system that isn’t sending vulnerable people down all sorts of dead ends.

https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-design/a/rosanne-haggerty/

Housing for the Homeless: 14 Smart & Sensitive Solutions

City officials spend a lot of time and energy worrying about how to keep homeless people off public furniture and out of certain common areas, when they should be considering how to better manage the issue of homelessness in general. One area of focus is homeless housing, whether simply meeting the immediate needs of people who live on the streets or providing a more long-term, forward-thinking transitional living spaces. These 14 designs for homeless housing provoke thought as to how we can meet the needs of disadvantaged people living in our own communities, and ensure that the situation is only temporary.

weburbanist.com/2012/03/19/housing-for-the-homeless-14-smart-sensitive-solutions/